Building on today's theme of Ask Important People Questions Rather Than Speculate On Things Ourselves (it's a working title), we had the chance to do a little email exchange with Vic Christopher, Assistant General Manager for the Tri-City Valley Cats...
AC: Congratulations on surpassing your 1,000,000th fan at Joe Bruno Stadium. Having spent some time in the Northeast, I know how lonely it is to be an Astros fan up there. How is it that the ValleyCats are able to connect with fans in the Capital Region?
VC: The ValleyCats are the Capital Region's local team. Fans in our area usually identify with the Yankees, Mets & Red Sox as their favorite Major League teams. That's fine, because you can be a fan of those MLB teams and still be a ValleyCats fan. When a fan comes through the gates at Joseph. L. Bruno stadium in Troy, they can relate to the local concession items, micro brew beer and entertainment acts. If you grew up in the area, "The Joe" feels like home.
AC: What is the most satisfying aspect of your job?
VC: Brainstorming with my co-workers to improve the operation, breaking attendance records, and helping to "create fans for life."
AC: Tri-City seems to get more of the college-age draftees each season. What is the transition like for the players as they start their pro careers, and does the organization help out in any way?
VC: The Latin players are all learning how to speak English, and that's an adjustment. The players have a very close relationship with the front office and the fans. We're always eager to assist in helping to find hotel rooms for visiting relatives and provide a clean facility and comfortable housing for the team.
AC: We're probably not shocking anybody by admitting that, for the past few years, the quality on the field hasn't been so...shall we say...readily apparent. Does that factor into how you present the team to the community?
VC: We've helped to develop 18 Major League players in 8 seasons, including two MLB All-Stars last season (Ben Zobrist & Hunter Pence). I'd call that quality.
AC: Have the Astros invited the ValleyCats staff to Houston? How much communication do you have with the Astros as an organization?
VC: A Minor League organization has a very close relationship with its Major League partners. We communicate regularly on travel, transportation and housing issues. We've developed some great friendships with the parent club and we all meet down at Spring Training in Kissimmee.
AC: Who has been your favorite player in your time with Tri-City?
VC: We like them all, but Bud Norris was probably one of my favorite guys to come through Tri-City. Bud was always hanging around the front office and he was real tight with the fans.
Big thanks to Vic for taking time to answer some questions. Follow along on his blog on the Albany Times-Union, and the ValleyCats on Twitter.